As a result of being defeated in World War I and World War II, Germany lost large areas of land. After World War II, many ethnic Germans fled from lost territories and East European countries to what remained of Germany. About 8 million refugees fled from East Prussia, the Czech Sudetenland, and the region between the Oder and Neisse rivers in Poland. About another 3 million ethnic Germans fled from Hungary, Yugoslavia, Romania, and other parts of Eastern Europe. Most of these ethnic Germans had lived for centuries in Eastern Europe. However, during and after the wars they were driven out, often violently, with the loss of an estimated 2 million German lives. This process began with the collapse of the German Empire (see German Unification) and Austria-Hungary in 1918 and the establishment of East European countries such as Czechoslovakia and Poland. The failed attempt of the Nazi Party to reconquer and expand German ethnic dominance by force led to the final flight and expulsion of ethnic Germans from Eastern Europe.
Once they arrived from their trek to East and West Germany, these millions of ethnic German refugees were rapidly integrated into German society. Many refugees continued to move from rural to urban areas, and from east to west as 2.5 million East Germans fled to West Germany before the Berlin Wall was built in 1961.
A second great population movement began in the 1950s as the rapidly expanding West German economy demanded a larger labor supply. To meet this demand, West Germany looked outside the country to fill labor needs. From 1955, under bilateral treaties with various countries that had underemployment, West Germany brought in thousands of so-called guest workers on limited-term contracts to work for a few years.
When Germany’s economic growth slowed in the early 1970s, West Germany stopped foreign recruitment and expected the guest workers to return to their home countries. However, most of them—including large numbers of workers from Turkey and Yugoslavia—did not leave. In addition, many workers had brought their families with them to share in Germany’s opportunities, living standards, and welfare benefits.
During the 1980s and 1990s Germany continued to experience waves of migration. The disintegration of Eastern European Communist regimes led ethnic Germans from as far away as Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Russia, and Romania to seek a new life in Germany, where the Basic Law offers them instant citizenship even if they do not speak the language. The crumbling of Communist rule in East Germany was also accompanied by a massive migration of East Germans to West Germany. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, hundreds of thousands of people a year from Sri Lanka, Lebanon, West Africa, and other regions sought refuge in Germany under Article 16 of the Basic Law, which provides asylum for victims of political persecution.
Some Germans have not welcomed these immigrants; many believe that the immigrants came only to participate in Germany’s high living standards. Official responses to these different kinds of immigration challenges have been varied and at times inconsistent, especially since Germany is a federal country and different states and cities have widely varying labor needs and problems. Ethnic German “resettlers” and East German migrants encountered prejudice even though they are German citizens. Asylum-seekers were kept in hostels all over the country, barred from jobs and social integration while individual cases for political asylum were examined. This process sometimes took years and resulted in large numbers of people being turned away. Restrictive immigration procedures adopted in the early 1990s reduced the number of annual asylum-seekers by two-thirds. With the expansion of the EU in 2004 to include new eastern European members, limits were placed on the right of EU nationals to seek employment in Germany. But German immigration laws were loosened in 2005 to attract skilled workers from non-EU countries. The great influx of foreigners in the early 1990s, especially illegal aliens and asylum-seekers, coincided with the collapse of the East German Communist regime.
Unification brought numerous economic and social problems to Germany, including increased taxes, budget deficits, housing shortages, strikes and demonstrations, high unemployment, and rising crime rates. Enormous social changes and economic fears brought xenophobia (fear of foreigners) to the surface. While an angry public focused on the unwelcome strangers and competitors for scarce housing and other benefits, neighborhood youth gangs attacked visible aliens and set fire to their government-assigned housing shelters. At its peak in 1992 this antiforeign violence became the object of extraordinary media concern in Germany and abroad, where it was sometimes interpreted as a sign of German racism and the revival of Nazi activities. Massive counter-demonstrations drew millions of Germans opposed to racism and antiforeign violence. Nevertheless, episodes of racist violence claimed an estimated 100 lives between 1990 and 2000, and continued into the new millennium. "Germany" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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